Landlord group was state’s biggest lobbying spender in 2016

Rent Stabilization Association spent $3.6M
By Kathryn Brenzel | June 08, 2017 05:30PM

RSA President Joseph Strasburg

The city’s largest landlord group was also the state’s biggest lobbying spender last year, shelling out $3.6 million on issues such as property taxes and rent regulation.

The Rent Stabilization Association of New York more than doubled its lobbying efforts in 2016, jumping from the $1.4 million it spent in 2015, according to a report released by the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics on Thursday. According to disclosures filed with the state, the organization’s lobbying efforts were related to property taxes, rent regulation, building safety and water rates.

In the past two years, the group has fiercely opposed the year-long rent freezes approved in June 2015, and then again in June 2016. In July, the group filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that the mayor exerted undue influence on the Rent Guidelines Board. The board later decided against freezing rent next year.

Representatives for the group didn’t immediately return calls for comment.

As usual, real estate was a strong presence in local and state lobbying efforts last year. Real estate and construction spent $35.7 million, making it the second-highest spender by industry. The New York State Association of Realtors was the ninth highest lobbying spender in 2016, spending roughly $1.3 million. Kasirer Consulting, one of the industry’s go-to lobbying firms, raked in $10.4 million last year in compensation and reimbursed expenses. Joseph Capalino’s firm, which was at the center of the Rivington House scandal, ranked sixth with $6.5 million in compensation and reimbursed expenses.

Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel received the most from a single client in 2016. Westbrook Partners and Atlas Capital Group, under the name SJC 33 Owner 2015, paid the law firm roughly $1.2 million in 2016 in compensation and reimbursed expenses. The developers plan to redevelop 550 Washington Street, a five-tower residential complex. In order to build out a bigger space, the companies agreed to pay the city $100 million for air rights at Pier 40, located across the street. Disclosure documents identify the City Planning Commission, the mayor, community boards and city council as targets of the lobbying efforts. The City Council approved the air rights sale in December.

Lobbyists spent a total of $242.7 million at state and local levels in 2016, roughly the same amount expended in 2015, according to the report. Lobbyists, however, raked in $218 million, a 5.8 percent increase year-over-year.

The report also notes the $200,000 fine that Glenwood Management paid earlier this year for violating lobbying laws, related to former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The commission took in more than $566,000 in penalties resulting from investigations in 2016.